View Full Version : Hines Ward goes to School.......great story

11-02-2006, 05:13 PM
Be sure to click the link to see the pictures.....http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/06306/734820-66.stm

Hines said the Steelers WILL make the playoffs.......and Hines would never lie to the kids......!!

Steeler's visit inspires young fans
Hines Ward offers winning advice at McKee School
Thursday, November 02, 2006

By Brian David, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Next door to Randy and Elena Armstrong's North Fayette home, a 1-year-old wearing a Hines Ward jersey toddled toward the back yard just as a limousine pulled up the street, apparently more interested in something back there than in the arrival of someone who wears that same jersey for the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Other than that, the man in the limousine -- a man revered enough to have his football jersey made in toddler sizes -- was the center of an absolute storm of attention Tuesday morning in North Fayette.

Mr. Ward waded through a media throng to get to the Armstrongs' front door, and film crews played bump-and-run coverage as he met his newest buddy, 6-year-old Evan Armstrong, and checked out the family's basement Steelers room. Ten cameras recorded the action as he signed Evan's hat and jersey.

"How do you like being famous?" Mr. Ward asked Evan after they crawled into the limo to go to Evan's school, McKee Elementary in the West Allegheny School District. "Welcome to my world. This is what I go through all the time."

But ESPN highlights, interviews, Sports Illustrated covers, the Super Bowl MVP trophy? That was merely prelude to real fame.

"You're going to do the morning announcements," Evan said.

"The morning announcements?" Mr. Ward said with a chuckle. "Like I get to give the lunch specials?"

"Yeah, and you're going to lead the pledge of allegiance."

A month of excitement
Mr. Ward is one of 34 National Football League players in the "NFL Take a Player to School" promotion sponsored by retailer JCPenney. Randy Armstrong, like millions of others, registered his son for the contest online.

The Armstrongs got a call from the NFL Oct. 3, while they were in a doctor's office getting a cast put on Evan's broken wrist. A very bad day turned very quickly into a very good day. Evan would be taking Hines Ward to school.

Already huge Steelers fans, the Armstrongs spent weeks turning their basement into a shrine, plastered with jerseys and posters and other paraphernalia. Their daughter, Arlena, 12, said she herself spent "five or six" hours cleaning.

They also took Evan to his first game -- the Steelers' 45-7 blowout of the Kansas City Chiefs.

The school got the news a couple of weeks ago. Principal Tom Orr said the result was "pandemonium, with people frantically cleaning the school." They declared that Halloween would double as Hines Ward day, with kids bringing both Steelers gear and costumes to wear. There would be an assembly in the morning and parties in the afternoon, a double dose of adrenalin and sugar before a night of trick-or-treating. The halls and gymnasium were plastered in black and gold.

Mr. Orr himself was wearing a Ward jersey, and was clearly excited, offering to throw lead blocks if necessary to get Mr. Ward through the halls.

"I support anyone who will help kids," he said.

No crybaby
When it comes to kids, Mr. Ward appeared to be a natural, chatting with Evan buddy-to-buddy on the ride to school.

"I broke my same wrist when I was about your age," he said. Just like Evan, he fell from the monkey bars on the playground, "only in my case, another kid pulled me off."

Another difference? Evan said he didn't cry.

"I cried!" Mr. Ward said. "You're tougher than me. I don't like pain. I'm a big crybaby."

He asked Evan about football, and Evan said he was more of a baseball player so far, and presented Mr. Ward with a signed Evan Armstrong tee-ball rookie card. But he liked watching the Steelers beat the Chiefs -- one of the few bright spots in a 2-5 season.

"Maybe you're our good luck charm," Mr. Ward said. "We've got to find a way to turn this around."

'Don't stop working'
As it turned out, Mr. Ward did not announce the lunch specials or lead the pledge, but he did introduce the two rather awestruck kids who did.

From there, it was a long walk to Evan's classroom, through hallways lined with kids screaming as only kids can scream, kids giving him high-fives and then holding their hands up like sacred relics, kids in actual tears of excitement.

What does it mean to Mr. Ward, a mild-mannered superstar who comes across as a genuinely nice guy?

"For me, growing up, I didn't have this kind of experience," he said during a brief quiet moment, waiting backstage with Evan. He grew up with trouble all around him, and precious few people advising him to work hard, stay in school, stay out of trouble.

"This could be a life-changing experience for some kid out there. If one kid out of all these kids gets a chance to take something I say and do better, then it's worth it."

From the stage, Mr. Ward talked about his own school days, of dreaming of playing in the NFL but of being too small, of having a broken arm "like my man Evan here" and of having a mother who wouldn't let him give up.

The message? Don't stop dreaming -- and don't stop working, in school and out of school.

In response to questions from the kids, he said yes, the Steelers will make the playoffs, that his touchdown catch in the Super Bowl was his greatest moment in sports, that the Baltimore Ravens are the team he hates most -- "every time we play them we want to pound them into the dirt," he said -- and that if he wasn't in the NFL then maybe, just maybe, he'd want to be a teacher at McKee.

That got a predictable roar of approval, and a quick nod of agreement from Mr. Orr.

"There it is, then," Mr. Ward said. "I'm the next PE teacher at McKee. I'll tell you what, though: When I'm teaching here, you better be ready, 'cause we're going to do some work!" Another question, about what it takes to be a role model, got a more serious response.

"I think it's important to lead by example, to work hard so other people know to work hard," he said. "And you've got to be a great citizen. That's something I try to do."

Dreams can come true
After playing a little catch with the kids in Evan's gym class -- he got them to catch the ball, spike it, and got few of them to offer up touchdown dances -- Mr. Ward was back to the limo and back to his day off. It was a whirlwind hour and a half that left the Armstrongs feeling a bit drained, as Elena put it, though Evan was ready to change into his Power Ranger costume and get on with Halloween.

But it's an hour and a half that Mr. Orr thinks will mean a lot to the McKee children.

"I think the biggest thing they can learn is that if you work hard you can make your dreams come true," he said.

11-02-2006, 05:27 PM
Good to see him getting out into the community.

11-02-2006, 05:35 PM
Great read, thanks for posting. :smile:

11-02-2006, 08:55 PM
Yeah, Ward made alot of kids happy that day. He seems to really know how to interact with kids.


11-03-2006, 07:26 AM
That's because he's a kid at heart! What a great man to have on the team!